Monthly Archives: March 2010

Israel in Gaza

This report is from CAABU and highlights the continuing crimes against humanity perpetrated by one powerful state against another. Israel could not do this without outside finance and support:

One year on from war
A report on the humanitarian and political situation in Gaza
In the immediate aftermath of Israel’s attack on Gaza in early 2009, a delegation from the Britain-Palestine APPG travelled to the region to assess the situation. One year on from this visit, the Britain-Palestine Group returned to examine the conditions in the territory.
As Israel’s siege of Gaza prevents substantive reconstruction the delegation saw that homes, schools and hospitals continue to lie in ruin; over 700,000 people rely upon food aid merely to survive; and the economy of the territory has been obliterated, with imports and exports now blocked by Israel for over 1,000 days.
One year on from war: A report on the humanitarian and political situation in Gaza is now available on line.

Report Executive Summary

Israel’s total siege of Gaza has now held in place for over 1,000 days, denying the people of the territory freedom of movement, access to food, fuel and medical supplies, and crucially the ability to reconstruct their homes, schools and factories one year on from a major military conflict. Access to Gaza remains a key issue. The Agreement on Movement and Access stipulates that 15,500 trucks per month should be allowed to enter Gaza via the crossing points with Israel. However, since June 2007 the total number of trucks entering the territory has been only a fraction of this, typically representing around 20% of previous levels.
The siege has led to the emergence of large scale smuggling operations. At present Israel permits the importation of only 73 items into Gaza, and yet over 4,000 products are currently available in the shops of the territory. The business class of Gaza are leaving for Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, and are being replaced by a mafia-like elite that control the smuggling operations, estimated to be worth $30-40 million per month. Hamas have also been enriched by the tunnels; charging for permits to operate a smuggling route and applying a levy upon imports.
The delegation visited numerous sites that continue to lie in ruin, a year since the previous visit of the Group. Israel’s refusal to allow cement and steel to enter Gaza has prevented reconstruction work, leaving many Palestinians living in temporary shelters and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency unable to spend the money that it has been pledged for construction projects.
The effect of the conflict and the siege upon public health in Gaza has been devastating. Whilst the war had a shattering impact upon the population of the territory, the siege has in fact had a more corrosive impact upon health care facilities. The necessary drugs are available in hospitals for most emergency procedures, but supplies for the treatment of chronic conditions are in short supply. The lack of safe drinking water threatens the entire population; thousands of homes are without access to running water, whilst municipal wells break down regularly without the spare parts that are needed to keep them operational. UNRWA estimates that 60% of the population are without access to a regular water supply.
Reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah remains elusive and elections due to be held by January 2010 are unlikely to take place anytime soon. Both Hamas and Fatah claim to support reconciliation, but seem unwilling to make the necessary compromises to bring this about.
In the 14 months that have elapsed between Israel’s invasion and the return of the Britain Palestine APPG to Gaza, there has sadly been little accountability, on either side, for the crimes committed during the conflict. It is clear that impunity is at crisis point in the region. Atrocities that go unpunished encourage only further transgressions, and the lack of accountability following Operation Cast Lead and with regards to the on-going siege are a stark example of this.

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Is the tide turning? The willingness to criticise the Israeli Government

Washington now London have expressed their displeasure with the Israeli Government and their agencies. The US was embarrassed when Israel announced the continuation of building illegal settlements on Arab land in East Jerusalem and at the time the Vice President, Joe Biden was visiting Israel. Now David Miliband has spoken in the House of Commons on the decision to expel and Israeli diplomat following the use of forged British passports by Mossad agents who assassinated a leading Hamas figure in Dubai. In recent months both Biden and Miliband have displayed gratuitous attitudes as if Israel could do no wrong. Whether this will result in the falling away of the huge aid enjoyed by Israel I rather doubt since Israel is a Western base in an Islamic world where Islam has replaced Communism as the uniting bogey for Western leaders to bring cohesion to their world construct.

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Hoon and Hewitt are shrimps compared to the “Great White Shark” of lobbying, Blair

Interesting. The subject of the latest parliamentary scandal are names all associated with TB (Tony Blair that is, not the unpleasant disease). Stephen Byers has been in the news before I seem to remember. Hoon and Hewitt made a hash of trying to remove Brown not so long ago when it backfired rather badly on them. Neither covered themselves in glory in their ministerial positions either as far as I can tell. While the US has put dampeners on the ability of former politicians to sell their insider knowledge for s considerable sums this is one feature of American political life, so admired by Blair, that he didn’t emulate. No wonder. He’s doing Big Business with Saudi Arabia, South Korea and who knows elsewhere. “Business confidentiality must be maintained” says he. You bet it must: to protect his greedy arse.
Following the showing of the Dispatches stitch up four Blairites have reportedly been suspended from the Labour Party. While it’s a good opportunity for Broon to reply to the earlier actions of Hewitt and Hoon it’s probably not what was wanted in advance of a General Election. As another example of how corporate power is influencing politics across all parties what is being seen is further evidence of a deep malaise where corporate interests take precedence over people in society. Thatcher espoused it but the very party that so many of us supported to stop it actually ran with the free market policies and applied them to public services from hospitals to prisons which are now all affected with this evil virus. The shrimps have been netted. The Great White Shark is contemplating where his next million will come from.

“Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics.”

Barack Obama’s conclusion at the eventual, and extremely narrowly won, introduction of the Health Bill, he stated “Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics.” How significant is this as a statement?
It can be conclude that Obama is admitting that he’s virtually on a hiding to nothing as president of a country dominated by vested interests of powerful corporations where profits are all and people come as a very poor consideration, valued for their purchasing power. Their welfare has to be fought over, and to his credit Obama succeeded where even Bill Clinton had previously failed. It has come to a great cost of his popularity ratings. The Republicans may have lost office but their power did not evaporate with it.
Contrast the mighty effort needed to get minimal reform in health care with berated Cuba, a small country best by continuing sanctions imposed by earlier administrations, but upheld by Obama’s. Cuba not only affords somehow to look after its own people, but exports health care to Latin American and Caribbean neighbours, African nations and the war torn regions like Afghanistan. Here Cuban doctors are trusted, along with Medicin-sans-frontieres, most among the international aid agencies. In Cuba such support is not seen as “charity” but as “duty”. Before the earthquake Haiti only free medical care was given by Cuba. The World Health Organisation looks to Cuba to see how its done. The answer lies in prevention. If people are stopped from falling ill in the first place then care is affordable for those who do. Poor beleaguered Britain whose National Health service is a source of pride, has been fined by the European Community for failing to meet air pollution targets. The money that could have gone to help those falling ill from asthma, lung problem s, cancers resulting from the pollution goes to the EU. Who benefits from this extraordinary action?
Obama is not likely to show signs of softening attitudes to Cuba or Venezuela as his health reform zeal has made him a reputation of introducing socialism. The Capitalists won’t stand for that!

Hillary in Latin America. Both feet first

When George W. Bush visited South American states in 2005 he left quickly. His stay in Argentina finished a day early when he was anxious “to get the hell out of town.” Hillary Clinton serves Barack Obama and so gets the benefit of the doubt, until that is she starts slagging off Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez. President Lula of Brazil and many other countries all share a healthy scepticism about the US and its interventions in the region and many realise the benefits that socialism brings to the people, notably the poor and dispossessed. Many feel empowered by having leaders who identify with their own communities like Evo Morales in Bolivia as well as Chavez. Clinton’s week long tour took in various countries with an itinary which included getting support from Brazil on Iran (their view – no more sanctions) and healing the split between Britain and Argentina over the Malvinas (???) Oh yes and there was quake struck Chile where communications equipment was taken along to assist.

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Scargill in Wolverhampton

Like elsewhere the people of Wolverhampton are hungry for change, something different on the political scene. People of Wolverhampton are losing services and dignity. They are being harassed and tormented by those who should be working with them giving them help and protection. There are stories of police breaking down the doors of the vulnerable and taking them into custody without the least regard for their well being, including the availability of essential medications.
Local community leader, Lance Dunkley, refers to the closure of elderly peoples’ homes when in the coldest of winters there was the sight of frail people being stretchered out through the snow and ice. They couldn’t even wait until it was warmer to carry out the cuts caused by the economic crisis and the greedy bonus grabbing banking fraternity. He talks about the industry that has closed here because factory owners have transferred their businesses elsewhere in the European Union where labour is cheap, encouraged by laws enacted in the European Parliament which encourage the movement of goods and labour throughout Europe,
Arthur Scargill, Leader of the Socialist Labour Party came to the Light House in Wolverhampton on 11th March, almost on the anniversary of the day when British industry had come under attack from the Thatcher government, He spoke to an enthusiastic audience of over 100 who had come from across the Black Country, Birmingham and further afield,
The Wolverhampton based Express and Star sent along their young journalist, Dan Wainwright, to cover the story. He had requested an interview and photo opportunity earlier and so after the meeting Arthur Scargill had a lengthy conversation with him which resulted in a full page article in the paper. Regrettably this does not seem to be included in the e-edition. Dan’s efforts were effectively undermined by a brief editorial which was as short on facts. Arthur Scargill he decided, without having been to hear him today, was yesterday’s man. What a pity, he thought, Arthur Scargill had failed to show a commitment to democracy by calling a ballot before the miners went on strike. It has to be remembered that members of the National Union of Journalists came out in sympathy with the miners and were particularly incensed at the inaccurate reporting at the time. This, and other “facts” have entered folklore and are regularly trotted out when required.
I attended the 25th anniversary of the miners’ strike in Red Lion Square, London, last year. Speakers included a journalist, a lawyer and others who had been involved. The leader of the French Mine Workers Union was there reminding us of the considerable support internationally when families were sent parcels and donations. I remember the matter of the famous ballot coming up. Arthur Scargill was leader of the National Union whereas local areas like Kent and Yorkshire were autonomous. The national leader had no power to override decisions made locally. It seems to me that is illustrative of democracy down through the union’s structure rather than evidence of Scargill refusing to push for a ballot. I understand that he and his fellow leaders were trying to make arrangements for a ballot but time was not on their side. Those who felt the naked brute force of police action unleashed didn’t feel that democracy was available to them.
I feared the worst when I first looked at the account of the Wolverhampton meeting in the Stirrer, however it turned out to be fair enough. Certainly Cadbury’s were being outsourced before the “purveyors of plastic cheese”, Kraft, came on the scene. A point made about immigration made by Arthur Scargill is quite unclear, however. In a characteristically way to illustrate the point that the use immigration as a factor in problems facing the country he reckoned that if all “immigrants” left Britain and were replaced by emigrants from the UK the present population would be 300 rather than 62 million. (Nothing was said about the recent apologies given to those unfortunate children who were sent to Australia and Canada to strengthen the “white” stock, many of whom suffered lengthy periods of abuse).
I am not sure why the decision to fight pit closures is considered more controversial than the decision to close them. Thatcher personally intervened and dictated some directions to the employers who promptly caved in. Jobs were lost in consequence and whole communities suffered – and still suffer – as a result. Scargill points out how “the pyramid was turned upside down” from a 80/20% division between manufacturing and finance industries e have reversed it to 20/80%. The capability of producing real wealth which could afford working people pensions and benefits, the NHS etc. turned into the society which produces little of substance but prints money in order to pay huge unaffordable sums to people who drain us dry. Tax payers money ends up in ludicrous bailouts instead of providing essential services to those in real need. “I wouldn’t give bankers a brass farthing” says Scargill “they ought to be in jail for their actions.”
The well attended Light House meeting was also addressed by Alex Robinson, a student from Bristol and one of two young people on the SLP’s National Executive. He spoke of the huge debts incurred by students and his experience as a carer trying to cope on amounts far less even than benefits. Liz Screen from the Welsh Region SLP chaired the meeting.

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What it takes, The US finally criticises Israel!

The Israeli government has finally managed to get the US administration to show a sign of frustration with its arrogant, self indulgent behaviour. It took some doing. Would you believe they announced the expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem when VP Joe Biden was in town, I had thought, according to earlier reports, that Biden had fallen over backwards, turned himself inside out, to indicate to the Israelis he was with them.
Even at this stage Biden is contriving to sound conciliatory and continued to make war-like noises threatening Iran. However the rebuke has been triggered by the settlement issue, always a precondition for peace talks between Israel and Palestine authorities, where even the enormities of Gaza, still emerging, failed to elicit a squeak.

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Lord Ashcroft. Getting a straight answer

Getting a straight answer to a straight question can be difficult, but getting the answer to the question put ages ago to Lord Ashcroft has been far worse than extracting teeth. Now he has said what we thought anyway. The reason he didn’t give an answer was that he did not pay tax to the UK government on his estimable riches. Yet he has been allowed to stay inside British politics playing a leading role and influence in the Tory Party.
“Ashcroft today confirmed that he will comply with cross-party moves to prevent people who do not pay full tax on all their earnings from sitting in either house of parliament and will relinquish his non-dom status.
Ashcroft has funded and masterminded a £5m campaign in marginal seats, which is widely expected to strongly influence the outcome of the election.
Ashcroft also published a letter he wrote to Hague, dated 23 March 2000, in which he gives the undertakings conditional to his peerage. It says: ‘I hereby give you my clear and unequivocal assurance that I have decided to take up permanent residence in the UK again before the end of this calendar year. I have given my advisers instructions to make arrangements to give effect to this decision and I will instruct them forthwith to do so within this calendar year.
‘I hereby firmly agree that I will not seek to be introduced to the House of Lords until I have taken up residency in the United Kingdom within the timescale mentioned.’ He also promises to resign as the Belize representative to the UN on March 31st that year.”
(Source The Guardian 1/3/2010).

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